This memorial to the members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) may be found along the South Bank of the Thames, close to the Lambeth Bridge and Lambeth Palace. SOE was set up in 1940 by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines. A bust of Violette Szabo by artist Karen Newman, is the centerpiece of the memorial. She was captured and executed in occupied France, and posthumously awarded the George Cross.
The Citation in the London Gazette of 17th December, 1946 reads:-
“Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities, but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the south-west of France. Resistance appeared hopeless, but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house, and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured, but never by word or deed gave away any of her aquaintances, or told the enemy anything of value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.”
The unveiling, on 4 October 2009, was performed by the Duke of Wellington. Also featured on the memorial are plaques to the French Resistance, as well as “the Heroes of Telemark” .
Google Earth co-ordinates are: 51.495779°, -0.120833°
The names of the SOE members who lost their lives during the war are also mentioned on the Brookwod Memorial to the missing (1939-1945) Memorial.
© DRW 2013-2018. Created 17/03/2013. Moved to blog 02/03/2014. Photograph of the Brookwood plaque courtesy of Steve Lee.